Microsoft turns Kinect attention to edutainment

Posted by Mike Luttrell

Microsoft has announced a new initiative to bring "playful learning" video games to the Xbox 360 platform, courtesy of the Kinect motion camera accessory.

The software giant has teamed up with some of the biggest heavyweights in the education industry like National Geographic, Disney, and Sesame Workshop to bring a huge slate of "edutainment" titles to the Kinect.

Young gamers will be able to interact with characters on the screen in a way that is seamless and intuitive. If you've ever seen a little kid watch a TV show and shout when they're asked questions like "What word do these letters create?" then you'll be able to appreciate that Kinect will allow the game to actually respond to those shouts.

"We know that the most effective learning environments for children are those that are engaging and exciting, and that foster collaboration and a positive attitude toward learning. The new way to play allows children to learn by interacting with their favorite characters and engage with content in novel ways," educational design director Alex Games was quoted as saying by Guardian.co.uk.

Kinect was unveiled as a revolutionary new way to play games. Microsoft boasted that it would fundamentally change the way consumers looked at video games. So far all we've really gotten are basic mini-games and novelty titles that are little different than what Sony did years ago with the PS2 Eyetoy and Nintendo continues to do with the Wii.

With this new initiative, though, there is a chance for Microsoft to really tap into a market that has so far remained largely nascent. For the most part, educational games are made by niche publishers and attract only a select group of developers.

It also speaks to Microsoft's more recent push to bring the Kinect technology to realms other than the traditional gamer audience. It could actually mark a change in the industry, but we'll see how it actually pans out.